Here’s a couple of Arsenal facts.
Arsenal made a loss in its last set of reported accounts, and contrary to stories that will not stop doing the rounds, there is no hard evidence that it was because the owners took money out of the club, nor because the club has fooled even its accountants into thinking that the stadium was paid for when it wasn’t.
It was because its income is going down, and its expenditure on players is going up. Last summer £90m net was spent on players. We are clearly not going to make a net loss in the next transfer window of the same proportions, first because the owners won’t fund it and second because that sort of spending doesn’t work in terms of getting the side to win more games.
And there’s another reason why the expenditure on players will go down – because we are at best going to have another season in the Europa. At worst it will be a season without European football and all the money that brings.
So what are we going to do?
Well, what we are doing – playing the youngsters as we did against Portsmouth. Except we will be playing them in League matches as well. Saka, Guendouzi, Nelson, Willock, Martinelli, Nketiah and others. OK the fans on twitter have been jeering Willock but that’s what they do and no matter how much I try and explain that jeering and complaining about one of our own players doesn’t make him a better player, they keep doing it and justifying it.
One correspondent asked, how else are they going to improve if we don’t let them know how bad they are? Basically it’s the wrong question. Everyone involved in a creative activity knows when what they are doing is not working. Sometimes you have to try harder, sometimes you have to relax more and get rid of the stress. Sometimes another person can help point you in a different direction. But ceaseless public criticism virtually never works. But that’s what young players are finding: come to Arsenal and stand a fair chance of being jeered on twitter, via Transfer Tavern and by sections of the crowd.
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And such behaviour means some players are likely to leave sooner for more hospitable territory.
Thus trying to buy the club’s way out of our mid-table is not only unlikely to work (history shows that most of the time it fails) and it is also not the Kroenke style.
However the current ownership does mean that we are going to avoid the catastrophes that can result from mega-spending that happen at either end of the league. We’re not going to do a Bury, who the match at Portsmouth reminded us have gone out of business after 125 years because the last owner but one tried to buy the club’s way out of their division into the league above, and then ran out of cash. We’re not going to do a Man City either because our owners see Arsenal as a source of revenue, not a way to spend your nation’s wealth while denying the bulk of the populace the basic human rights that most of us in the UK take for granted.
Interestingly, at the moment, the Leagues are looking to tighten up their expenditure rules even further in the light of recent events, and if Uefa lose their multiple cases against Manchester City (as many Man C fans believe is inevitable) then Uefa will surely do the same. It is, after all, what they do if they ever suffer a knock back; they change the rules.
Ultimately, it is all about improvement. How do we improve Arsenal as a team? By spending ever more on players? By jeering young players when they have a bad day? Or by supporting the team no matter what?
How does Uefa and the Premier League stop teams like Man City and PSG buying their way to success through endless donations from the owners? What is the practical route back to the top for Arsenal?
And it is not a bad thing that Arsenal supporters should engage in this sort of debate, because way back in the early days of our club’s history in 1910, first division Arsenal went totally and utterly bust when the local sponsor who had been paying the players’ wages when the club couldn’t, said “no more” and “can I have my loans back now?” 20 seasons on from that day they were the most successful and most profitable club in the land.
Arsenal survived because they found a man who was willing to buy up all the shares in the club, pay off all the debts (at least one of which went back ten years), loan the club an absolute fortune so that they could build a new ground in a place that would attract bigger crowds, and then sell the shares in the club on to the fans, so that Arsenal could become a club owned by its supporters.
Sadly, as the plan rolled out, smaller minded people moved in, and decided to take over the club themselves, forcing the old guard out, but the success of the 1930s was built on a debt free club that attracted huge crowds: the most honest way to run a club.
Whether the current owners have the ability to push such changes through remains to be seen. But simply buying more and more players and building up more and more debt is unlikely to be the route we’ll take, even if the neighbourhood bullies in the stand insist on booing our youngsters because they have a few bad games.
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